Some definitions for Tenderness (Why Joseph Shabason Rules) – By Joel Cuthbert

Joseph ShabasonMy latest craze (these daze) is looking up the dictionary definition of words I think I know. The kind of words I abuse, misuse or continue to use (for fear of disuse) as a way of finding out if I really mean what it is I seem to be saying. Well, one word that comes to mind when I think of the musical worlds that spill forth from Joseph Shabason is the word Tenderness. Let’s be clear, I’m not talking tender like Kenny G. We’re talking tenderness like a warm spot of sun on a cold day, like a hot cup of cocoa after a brisk fall walk, that kind of lush synth pad-warmth that could make Brian Eno blush.

So let’s see shall we (c/o a basic Google Search):

adjective: tender; comparative adjective: tenderer; superlative adjective: tenderest

showing gentleness and concern or sympathy.
“he was being so kind and tender”
solicitous of; concerned for.
“be tender of a lady’s reputation”

I first stumbled on your-soon-to-be-favourite Joseph Shabason from project in collaboration with a few other Canadian sound shapers. The discovery came in the form of the downright sumptuous release Philadelphia (named after the very city of Brotherly Love). On this release, our boy Shabason is joined by two others, namely Nicholas Krgovich & Chris Harris. Together the trio performs as “Shabason, Krgovich & Harris”. Their sound blends together lush instrumentals which lovingly pay homage to the haze of 80s-New Age, playful jazz lyricism, and the pleasant drift of vocals (care of Nicholas Krgovich). It’s the definition of a balm for the weary soul. They even went so far as to release a fully instrumental variant of this collection called Florence, for those who prefer their cup of camomile without lyrical interruptions.

I was then tipped off to a full solo outing by Shabason called The Fellowship. Here the hushed and lush are interwoven with playful electronic runs. (There’s even a nod to 80s film score with the track “Escape from North York”.) Throughout this work, Shabason uses his proficiency with both acoustic instrumentation (in the form of flutes and saxophones), with a bubbling backing of synths and EWI (a magical electronic-wind instrument). All this seems to cast a spell magical enough but he adds to the deceptively sweet mix by exploring, chronicling, and exorcising some rather heady ghosts. What ghosts you might ask? Why these are ghosts of the holy and unholy variety. The Fellowship explores Shabason’s journey to reconcile and lay fresh foundations from his upbringing in a mixed religious household (his parents bringing both Jewish and Islamic faiths into the fold). The battle sounds both confounding and ultimately redemptive, as old skin is shed in place of new life and yet still, this kindness, this tenderness beats at its centre.

If you would be so kind to yourself, as we overcome these seasons of discord and dichotomy, divides and dissensions, perhaps the sweet, kind, “tender of melodies” that is our fair Joseph Shabason, might help us articulate in sound, the struggle to reclaim, rebuild and renew, despite all that would oppose it.

Tender shoots? New growth through the cracks in the pavement? I’ll welcome its arrival.

Ps: Tender also is used oft to describe a perfectly prepared piece of meat. I don’t know your particular dietary proclivities, but I can assure you, the sounds Joseph Shabason shall provide will both provide the tenderest of sounds and satisfy the most voracious of appetites. Bon appetite!

Your Biggest Fan, Joel Cuthbert


Joel Cuthbert, most frequently known as your neighbour, is also the host of CFRU 93.3 FM‘s The Stillness and The Dancing (“the best show to stay in bed for”) and, professionally, as Manager at The Beat Goes On Guelph.

Joseph Shabason plays Kazoo! Fest 2022 on Saturday July 16th with DijahSB, Elaquent and Joyful Joyful at Royal City Mission (50 Quebec Street). Tickets are available here.


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